Everyone, with the possible exception of Mark Penn, must realize that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is hanging on the precipice. Her opponent Senator Barrack Obama has more money and a better organization; he has won more states and built more momentum – last night’s Wisconsin win makes nine in a row. Even James Carville has admitted that she is losing and needs to win Ohio and Texas if she expects to continue.
Remarkably, however, the candidate herself refuses to admit this obvious fact. In a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch she denied that Ohio was a must win state. Some might view this as typical political spin, but anyone familiar with Hillary’s history will recognize this as yet another example of her unique blend of arrogance and stubbornness.
Hillary has a long history of refusing to acknowledge obvious truths and stubbornly clinging to her own version of events. This pattern can be found in the scandals and failures of her husband’s administration and in her presidential campaign. It is a constant in any even perfunctory review of her public life.
Bill and Hillary’s time in Arkansas, and in the White House, were - at the very least - filled with questionable judgment and a refusal to acknowledge potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety. But criticisms were immediately branded as personal attacks and illegitimate. When questions arose Hillary’s first response was always to stonewall and deny. She would then move on to deceptively incomplete responses, if not outright lies. Any release of information, when it did come, came grudgingly and always as a last resort.
When her attempt at health care reform failed miserably she again blamed “powerful interests” rather than her own leadership failure; despite ample evidence that many stakeholders and politicians were interested in compromise but were arrogantly, and often rudely, rebuffed. Her game plan remained the same: refuse to compromise and demonize your opponents.
Likewise, any criticism of Bill’s often shameful personal actions were immediately derided as politically or financially motivated The first response was always attack, attack, attack.
In a recent interview with The Politico this pattern of denial continued. Hillary described the battles of the 1990’s as “about the positions we took” and denied any “self-inflicted wounds;” She recalled heroic battles over the assault weapons ban and fiscal responsibility while ignoring the cavalcade of scandals stemming from their own ethical lapses. In her mind, everything from Whitewater to Travelgate; from Paul Jones to Monica Lewinsky; from renting out the Lincoln Bedroom to the last minute pardons; from “don’t ask, don’t tell” to health care reform; from Black Hawk Down to Osama Bin Laden; it was never their fault.
It is increasingly clear that this characteristic stubbornness and arrogance has helped lay the groundwork for her potential undoing. She insisted on having a loyal acolyte as her campaign manager instead of someone more experienced. She built her campaign on the assumption that Obama was not a threat and that the primary would be over by Super Tuesday and failed to plan beyond it. She raised millions of dollars then promptly stopped, disastrously assuming it would be enough.
She arrogantly assumed that the African American community would loyally support her no matter what and stubbornly stood by and watched her husband damage her campaign; denying the obvious until it was too late.
As Obama was racking up impressive victories across the country, Hillary refused to acknowledge these defeats or congratulate her rival; when she wasn’t spinning them as “inconsequential states” she acted as if they simply didn’t exist.
Her campaign is constantly spinning expectations beyond all credibility. Just this week her campaign stoked accusations that Obama was plagiarizing speeches from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and then Hillary absurdly denied involvement blaming the media for the story.
And even today when her campaign is on the edge of defeat she simply won’t admit reality. She has never once shown even a hint of remorse about her past actions, her campaign strategy or acknowledged any mistakes. When asked, she denies even contemplating losing.
After all these years perhaps Hillary simply believes that she can once again outlast her opponents and browbeat the press. But today she isn’t battling over-reaching Republicans but her own party. She isn’t running against an unpopular president but “the most gifted African American politician in a generation.”
All of her stubbornness and arrogance won’t save her if she can’t find a way to stop Obama’s momentum. If she can’t pull out some impressive victories in Ohio, Texas, or Pennsylvania she will soon find herself forced to contemplate the cold hard reality of losing.
And maybe for once she could finally admit that it was her fault.